Situated at River Valley Road, Hook on Food/Hook on Books is a retail-cum-cafe concept that had sprouted up at Oxley Edge.
Essentially a bookstore-cum-cafe concept, Hook on Food is the cafe area that occupies the front area of the store, while the back houses Hook on Books — the bookstore which mainly retails children’s books, with an entire area at the back of the shop that is a dedicated reading corner for adults where patrons can exchange books one-for-one, or read the books available on the shelf. The bookstore aims to create a book-loving community, while encouraging children to read with the many picture books drawn by children as well as known authors; the bookstore even details nostalgic toys from the good ol’ days that kids used to play with in the past, and has an entire area dedicated for patrons to design their own notebooks/cards. Events are also often held in the space; all of which are being announced on their Facebook/Instagram pages. Hook on Food serves up pretty much takeaway fare; patrons can make use of the outdoor area of the store to have their food. The menu at Hook on Food features predominantly Taiwanese cuisine, offering rice bento, sandwiches, Chinese pancakes, and noodles are available on the mains menu. Beverages include cold-pressed juices, specialty coffee as well as other non-caffeinated drinks.
(Foreground: Ham & Egg Pancake, Background: Latte)
Trying the Ham & Egg Pancake which is a pretty light bite great for those who are looking for something to munch on, the Ham & Egg Pancake is a comforting item. Served fresh upon-order, the pancake was warm without being too greasy — while the Chinese pancake was essentially rather similar to our local Roti Prata in terms of texture and flavour, we loved how it paired well with the slice of ham and the sunny-side-up. Included in the pancake were also strips of lettuce for some crunch, and the mayonnaise and teriyaki sauces helped to add flavour to this pretty simple, yet delightful snack. While the Ham & Cheese Pancake is available ala-carte, the item is also part of the selection under the breakfast set menu, where patrons can opt to go for a set which includes a small variety of hot drinks at an additional cost of $2.50. The Latte, which we opted for as part of the breakfast set menu, comes pretty milky, though with a very light, earthy body that was pretty soothing to have. Patrons can also opt for the Ham, Egg and Cheese Pancake as well, which costs $0.50 more.
(Braised Pork Belly Bento)
We also tried the Braised Pork Belly Bento; an item which attracted our attention given how much we loved the Taiwanese Lu Rou Fan. Described to be “Braised Pork Belly and Egg, served with Shredded Chicken and Pickles on Short Grain Rice”, the item comes in a pretty substantial portion size for one. Yet another bowl of Braised Pork Belly Bento that delivered, we liked how they were seemingly generous with all the condiments here that the rice is buried beneath all of the components that make up the entire bowl. It is noted that the item usually comes with a braised egg, but we were told that the braised eggs were not available and we agreed with their suggestion of having an onsen egg instead. Coming with a good portion of meat, the rice was also drenched in a good amount of sauce; not overly wet, but saucy enough to provide ample flavour to the entire bowl of rice. The flavours of the spices used in the braising liquid were well-balanced, creating a savoury note that was not overly strong or salty despite going through the entire bowl. Pickles are added in order to cut through the meatiness of the dish; the pickles carried a slight tang to refresh the taste buds. It also interestingly carries a slight kick of spiciness; not only does it help to cut through the meatiness of the entire bowl, but it also tingles the taste buds and helped create an interesting surprise element that is not typical to the usual bowl of Taiwanese Lu Rou Fan. While Eat 3 Bowls serve their Chicken Rice separate from their Braised Pork Rice, the Braised Pork Belly Bento is pretty much the best of both worlds in comparison; the shredded chicken carries a rather fine texture that is pretty consistent throughout the portion, and while it does not try to steal the show away from the main star of the show (i.e. the Braised Pork Belly), it does help to add a rather unique, contrasting meatiness that is clean yet slightly saltish to the Braised Pork Belly. A well-executed rendition of the Taiwanese Lu Rou Fan that is seemingly authentic (at least to what we have had tasted in Singapore thus far), and one that would certainly not mind having yet again.
While Taiwanese cuisine seems to have been a growing trend with the number of new Taiwanese-themed eateries sprouting up all across the island (think Eat 3 Bowls, Nan Tai Eating House, Er Nai @ Timbre+, The Salted Plum, etc.), Hook on Food is one that carries a slightly different vibe that we were not able to find. Perhaps it is how it operates as a bookstore with a community-driven approach that makes Hook on Food so unique on its own; something that Grassroots Book Room and Katasumi Kohii is seemingly also doing with their space, though the latter serves only cakes and coffee. Even so, Hook on Food/Hook on Books carries an element of fun; perhaps due to the fact that it is seemingly targetted towards children despite a space dedicated to adults as well. It is also noted that the activities available for patrons at Hook on Books are also pretty interactive, and the staff’s hospitality was top-notch; ever-ready to introduce the concept of the shop to first-time patrons, giving patrons an intimate tour around the entire shop around its different zones. Food offerings were also stellar and seemingly authentic, despite the shop’s main focus on being a bookstore which regularly hosts community events. A place with a difference, Hook on Food/Hook on Books is more than just a destination for delicious Taiwanese fare or for unique Chinese books; it is a destination for those looking for an experience, soul, and character in a space that is utterly inspiring.
Hook on Food
308 River Valley Road
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/hookonfood/